Removing vinyl siding is one of the best things one can do to a house.
As much as a homeowner may want good curb appeal, their house will never have the appeal of homes of those who understand and appreciate good curb appeal .
Unfortunately there are many people who just don’t know any better and love their shiny plastic.
But for those that do there is a wave of homeowners removing vinyl siding and aluminum from their homes and allowing the beauty to return.
Here is the story written by a historic neighborhood organization making things happen.
The Great Unveiling
A Recipe for Removing Vinyl Siding
Several years ago there was an article in the Illinois Association of Historic Preservation Commission’s newsletter regarding the program started in Rock Island, IL for the removing vinyl siding by volunteers. The Gifford Park Association, a neighborhood organization in Elgin, IL was so impressed with the idea that we decided to try it. We found their name, “The Great Unveiling” to be very catchy so we asked for and received their permission to use it. We decided to add to their idea by offering a $1,000 (proceeds from our house-walk) for any homeowner willing to let volunteers remove their siding. We decided to make it a part of our Preservation Week festivities by doing it on the last Saturday of Preservation Week.
We hand delivered a catchy flier to each home in the Historic District (over 600) to advertise the program. Our first year we had only one taker but it was a once in a lifetime chance that had the potential to be spectacular.
Surprises Under the Siding
Rumors had been circulating for years that a small, nondescript home in the district was actually a cobblestone built by a prominent resident in the 1850s. Most found that hard to believe. The owner asked us to do a small test patch to finally settle the question. We took off a small piece of wide exposure aluminum siding only to find stucco underneath. We then broke into the stucco with a large hammer and found…COBBLESTONES with tooled tuck-pointing!!!!
The owner was warned that the stucco removal would probably remove some of the fancy tuck pointing which could be expensive to restore. She was told that the $1,000 reward would probably only be a small portion or what would be needed. She was undaunted and excited about proceeding.
The Neighborhood Party
We sent out a flier to members and assembled quite a motley crew for an old-fashioned barn-raising event including lots of refreshments. The press showed up and gave us some nice coverage. One of the reporters actually took a pry bar and joined in the fun. He found the destruction to be the exact therapy he needed for his job. Well into the morning, our jaws literally dropped to the ground when we discovered round porch columns made of cobblestones had been framed over with aluminum.
With lots of volunteers, the entire job and cleanup was actually finished before lunch. Several feet of sub sandwiches completed a very, very fun and satisfying day.
The owners worst nightmares were realized when she received bids between $7,000 and $12,000 to remake one entire column and re-point the remainder of the tiny house. She bit the bullet and went ahead with the project leaving us with a wonderful addition to our neighborhood. The following year she received a Mayor’s award during our Preservation Week festivities.
Thirteen Homes Followed
Since that first exciting unveiling in 1997, we have been responsible for thirteen more. Elgin has three historic districts so we decided to try to do at least one in each every year. The Heritage Commission helped with the rewards and other prominent neighborhood organizations took the responsibility for the actual unveiling in their respective neighborhoods. Our record year came in 2001 when FIVE homes were unveiled all in one day – all but one was complete before lunch. A picnic in the park with a check issuing ceremony highlighted our day.
Before signing up candidates, we do go to their home with a ladder to do a test patch. Aluminum siding has to be taken off from the top down if you don’t want to ruin it. If the homeowner backs out, we have to be able to put the test piece back. Before committing to the program, the homeowners need to know if there are clapboards under the siding and the extent to which details have been removed. Often corner boards or window casings and hoods are removed to create a flat surface. Homeowners need to be thoroughly cautioned about the expenses that they could face.
We do recycle any aluminum, which typically gives the homeowner another $300. Any Styrofoam backing can be recycled if a thorough search is made for a recycler. Any other type of siding, we require the homeowners to get a dumpster to remove. We do not do asbestos siding because of the health hazards.
We have had a hard time keeping insurance despite our volunteers signing a waiver. We also use volunteers to salvage architectural details on houses before they are bulldozed. Homeowners require us to have insurance and we have found it at a cost of about $1000 above our basic liability insurance for the house-walk. If your insurance company is currently covering your volunteer efforts, it might be wise not to ask any questions.
I was inspired when I first read about Rock Island’s Great Unveiling. Hopefully your neighborhood will be moved to action by this article.
Photos from The Great Unveiling
Vinyl Siding vs Wood Siding
If you still don’t understand how vinyl siding effects curb appeal click here.
Also on this linked page towards the bottom is our Hall of Fame collection of Before & After siding removal photos. Below is a sample.
Removing Vinyl Siding Photos
Please share your experiences in the comments below.
We removed the aluminum siding from our 1867 farmhouse. It’s not a fancy house, but it was a big white elephant with that horrible wide siding. It had been painted previously and when it was windy, it looked like it was snowing from the paint flaking off. Why you would paint something that was suppose to be “maintenance free” is beyond me. I talked to several contractors about removing the siding, most questioned my sanity and suggested I just paint it or replace it with vinyl. I finally found a contractor just as nuts as myself and we removed it all. The watertable had been removed as well as a few other various wood bits and there was a huge gap above a picture window. It was a good 8 feet by 1 1/2 foot gap. Guess they thought the siding would keep the cold out. It didn’t, by the way. We had to replace a few boards where they blew in insulation (not very well I must add), replace a few corner boards and such, as well as remove that 1960’s picture window (replaced it with two separate Windows like there used to be). I must say the house is now rather beautiful, after a historic paint job of course. Still working on the porches and such, but worth the time and effort it took. When strangers now tell you how pretty your house is it just a bonus to giving back the dignity the house deserves.
Lauren OMalleySingh says
Lisa may I ask what you paid to hire someone to remove siding? We have an 1899 Dutch colonial with asbestos siding underneath vinyl siding. I want to remove it myself but am wondering if it’s worth just hiring someone?
Asbestos is a whole different story. If you hire someone I believe they have to be certified for asbestos removal. It varies by state I think, but I’m not sure. You might be better off removing it yourself and paying someone to fix the damage. Again, you’ll have to find out about the asbestos. The contractor I hired also rebuilt my back porch, repaired my front porch, did the siding removal/ repair as well as various other projects so as far as cost I couldn’t really say as it was a rather involved project. Wish I had a simple answer for you, but I don’t.
LAUREN L O'MALLEY-SINGH says
Hi Lisa, thanks for your response! The City of Boston has loosened their rules to the point where removal of asbestos shingles is acceptable without special permits. I’m sure disposal is another story.
I guess I was just wondering a general ballpark, even if that included the cost of your porches – I presume the cost would be similar with all uncovered repairs that our home would need after siding was removed.
I can’t get any contractor to give me a general idea, like is it a $20K job or an $80K job? Just curious if I should even dream of it =)
Just coming across this thread nearly 9 months later, but my wife and I bought a vinyl-sided home in Dorchester this past summer and went about removing the vinyl siding and restoring the wood clapboards. Initially our contractor said “if the clapboards are in good condition you should save a good bit of money compared to re-siding with vinyl”… but this has not really been the case. Although the majority (about 90%) of the wood clapboards are solid and in good shape, we (the contractor) had to do extensive work to rebuild the water table around the house, rebuild two levels of soffit/facia, re-flash and re-lead all of the roof lines, replace corner details that had rotted, and rebuild every window sill. He initially quoted about $27k to replace the vinyl siding with quality siding (some cedar impressions), but the restoration of the original clapboards/details will end up being a little north of $30k. To be clear, this was just to rebuild the aspects of the house that were hacked away for the vinyl and to make sure all of the rooflines are water-tight. I am responsible for all the scraping/sanding/painting which has been another project in-and-of itself. I ripped all of the vinyl and foam backing off the house in early August 2017 and thought I would take some vacation time and have it scraped/sanded/painted by early October. Well…I have ended up doing a much more thorough and quality job than I expected, but I will not completely finish the paint job this winter (the important parts are nearly complete, with the back still left for the Spring). After scraping by hand for a few days I came across the PaintShaver Pro, a planer type machine that shaves the top layers of paint off the clapboards and into a HEPA filtered vacuum. The resulting surface is amazing…looks like new clapboards instead of ones that have wavy layers that will inevitably peel within a few years. Since the PaintShaver Pro does not get into the sides/corners of each board I am using a heat gun and putty knife to scrape any remaining paint. It has been a colossal project for someone to do on weekends over a few months, but it is coming out amazing.
To get back to your original question, the process to bring an old house back to its original state is expensive and time consuming….but we are blown away with how it is coming along. It is hard to believe that such detail and craftsmanship were hidden under ugly vinyl siding for so many years! I hope you have chosen to do the same! Let me know if you want to compare notes sometime.
Lauren OmalleySingh says
DotVictorian, thank you for this response! I am seeing it years later but I’m still with siding and still wanting to remove it. I don’t believe I will be able to afford restoration for a few years so I’ll have to wait 🙁
I will definitely reach out to you! I would love contractor info and any tips you have!!!!
Gerald Regan says
Hi Lisa, do you have a picture of the before and after of your home. We are contemplating removing the vinyl siding from our house and restoring and painting the clapboards on our 75+ year old well built home.
Hi my name is mona mccombs. We have a beautiful farmhouse that has aluminum and vinyl siding. I pretty sure there beautiful cedar siding underneath. I would like to remove and expose the beauty of the house. I concerned through there are 3 additions. 1926, 1940 than 1980’s. My husband doesn’t see the value and beauty in doing so. What are the chances the part from the 80’s is cedar. It is a 2 story and the largest part. We can’t afford a big restoration because we are restoring the inside. This is a beautiful home and we found wallet size picture in the oldest part of a pre-civil war couple wedding pictures. It is in a leather bound 4 x 6 wallet that locked. We don’t know who they are but was put in wall intentionally. We have a library we have the oucs in the for show. What do u think we can do to get help with this home which was the first in our beautiful nashville Indiana county around 1860? Thankyou mona mccombs
Ken Roginski says
You may not have wood siding under the 1980’s section which means you will need to install it.
I just did the same! How did the wood clapboards take to the paint after being covered up for so long? My 100 years old clapboards have been covered for probably 60 years.
Dae English says
Lisa, agree each state & city has their own rules and for Jacksonville Florida the home owner can do about anything. I had asbestos roof shingles and went to the city department and to my surprise they said I had no rules to live under and could even leave out for garbage people to pickup.
George Andrew says
Great post. Thank you.
Alexis Schuler says
I started talking to contractors to replace my aluminum siding with Hardie, but now I’m realizing that I don’t want to destroy the 90 year old wood clapboard underneath. What kind of contractor is the best way to go? It seems like a siding company is just going to want to sell me new siding instead of fixing what I already have. But there are so many steps – remove the aluminum, repair damaged wood and trim, scrape and paint – is it realistic to think I can find one contractor to do it all?
Ken Roginski says
Yes keep that old wood siding. You don’t want to contact a siding business. Find a carpenter that does both carpentry and painting. There are some that do it all.
Beth Mosall says
I removed the aluminum siding on my 1928 two family house this past fall. It was magical. I discovered shingles in the gable ends and trim detail that had been lost in 1948 when the house was sided. The aluminum hid some major water/animal/insect damage at one section that I had repaired, which was the impetus for the removal. My carpenters start next week to finish siding and trim repairs, then the painters come in July. New custom color storm windows will be installed after that, allowing me to continue on restoring all 52 original wood windows. I went through several contractors and painters that told me just to put vinyl siding back on it, after which I kindly said to get out! Finding the right team was definitely the hardest part of my 6.5 restoration so far…
Ken Roginski says
Keith Engle says
I’m very close to buying a 1900 home with wood siding that is currently covered in vinyl, which we would like to remove. Any suggestions as to how we determine what to budget for that?
Ken Roginski says
Don’t know but I do know that is something you could do yourself in a day.
Hi! We bought an 1890 “New Englander” fixer-upper before fixer-uppers were cool. 🙂 We’ve been picking away at it ourselves and would love to remove the vinyl siding that was installed approx. 20 years ago. It looks like they tacked on the blue foam insulation boards and then the siding on top of that. We also think they blew in some foam insulation at some point as well… Ugh… There is beautiful clapboard in our enclosed porch (that is in beautiful shape), so we know that that is hiding underneath (and we are keeping our fingers crossed that it hasn’t suffered too much damage from having been covered). There are a few things attached to the house, though, that are holding us back from ripping it all off ourselves: the electrical meter owned by the power company and the stove pipe for the wood stove that we installed a few years ago. Any advice/suggestions on how to handle this? And, aside from these obstacles, is removing vinyl siding something that we can (or should) tackle ourselves? The separate garage/barn doesn’t have anything attached to it…. Thank you!
Ken Roginski says
I have heard that people remove it themselves lots of times but personally I would hire someone. There’s a lot of tugging you need to do on top of that ladder. As for the electric meter you would need to call the phone number on your bill. Best of luck!
Thank you very much! Full speed ahead. 🙂
I am so happy to find folks who hate vinyl siding as much as I do!! Our last restoration was a 1926 stucco, very neglected but untouched. Both homes we are interested in now are vinyl sided. Both built before 1890, the larger home has asbestos siding UNDER the vinyl siding, plus both interiors have been severely remuddled. There are areas where there are weeds growing in the space between the vinyl and asbestos and the window sill, plus they used “great stuff” to fill holes in the foundation! Argh!
My question is: is there a certain way to remove the vinyl (and the asbestos) with minimal damage to the wood beneath. Thanks.
Ken Roginski says
I really don’t know of the best way to do it. Maybe someone has experienced removing asbestos reading this.
Lauren OmalleySingh says
I’ve done a lot of reading about asbestos shingle removal and I learned that you first need to learn what your city/town allows for. City of Boston allows for removal without encasing the house… Disposal needs to be paid for, as it’s a haz mat and that’s probably in every area of the country. There are many you tube videos on how to properly remove asbestos and it’s about limiting disruption of the asbestos particles into the air: spray water onto the shingle, remove nail carefully (the video discusses what tools) and try not to break the shingle before disposing of it the way your area requires. I hope this helps.
Late to the party, but in case anyone else comes across this article and discussion, that has the same question – yes you can remove the inappropriate siding yourself. My husband and I have been removing the tin can siding from our house and restoring the original wood clapboard siding underneath. We have about 5 months of winter here, so it is taking a little longer, but I assure you, it is absolutely worth it!! We have had countless neighbors and strangers stop to tell us how amazing our house looks. We discovered not only standard wood clapboards, but fish scale shingles in the gables, and an extremely unique “corduroy” siding on the front of the house!!
Yes, it is a labor of love – but the removal of the artificial siding is not difficult at all, and can be accomplished in a few weekends, if that. I will never be able to wrap my head around replacing superior building materials with inferior ones! Do be prepared for window sill ends to have been hacked of to accommodate the ugly, cheap artificial siding. Again, very easy to repair, and TOTALLY worth it!! Good luck to all:)
Ken Roginski says
Thank you for your inspiration!!
Jason C says
My wife and I are preparing to remove the vinyl siding from our 1760 colonial. Like yours, the ends of all of our window sills were chopped off to accommodate the vinyl. Any tips for how to repair those? I’ve seen a couple of articles where builders described creating a jig and routing the sills in order to create a uniform surface to add new stock to the ends, but both articles were a little vague on the process.
Clifford Badgley says
Good morning! Love your site.
I’m removing vinyl from my 1905 North Carolina mill house. Most of the wood beneath is in good condition, and will only need prepped and painted.
…those wicked vinyl siding people from the late ’80’s nailed all that foamy insulation stuff to the outside, and left about a million little nail holes.
What do you recommend I use to fill those?
Ken Roginski says
Caulk would be the fastest fix. Sometimes the paint will fill them in too.
Hello, this discussion has been very helpful and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one happy to be pulling off my ugly, faded vinyl. I’ve read through this discussion and a couple others, but still don’t feel like I have a definitive answer to my question.
I’ve removed a section from my back wall, top to bottom, on our single story, mid 1950’s ranch. The original siding underneath is in nice shape, with a few cracked boards, no significant rot, but a LOT of large nail holes from the vinyl that was installed over the top.
My question is, what’s the best way to fill these holes and repaint without the repairs being obvious? I’m unclear on the process-it seems like filling and sanding would work, but without the right filler and paint I’m assuming you will be able to see all the holes upon close inspection (or after a couple years of weather).
I am doing the work myself, and it seems the only answer I get from a lot of pros is to just reinstall vinyl-it’s not cost effective for them to take the time to fill the holes. I have the time, and would love to save the money. Any information would be greatly appreciated!
Ken Roginski says
I recommend using a good quality caulk for the holes.
I have the exact same dilemma. What did you end up doing?
Corbin Dodge says
As the owner of a 100 year old home, I also faced the same dilemma. Countless hours of research, inquiries to experts and conducting numerous test-patches led me to the following solution, which has held up brilliantly:
1) Paint with an exterior primer
2) Fill the holes with caulk
3) First layer of paint
4) Touch up any visible indentions with holes
5) Final layer of paint
I tested out wood filler, Abatron WoodEpox, and various caulks. I determined wood filler was too time consuming since it required sanding. WoodEpox took too long to apply and it was a challenge to completely fill in the holes.
Caulk was quick, easy, filled the holes all the way, and is more flexible, which should prevent the repair from developing cracks around the hole.
TYPE OF CAULK TO USE
Option A (cheaper, has held up great for past 3 years) – A high quality acrylic-latex caulk rated for exterior use. Make sure it is labeled as paintable, but avoid buying any products labeled ‘painter’s caulk,’ which tend to crack because they’re not as flexible. Some products are a silicone/acrylic-latex blend, which offers added flexibility while still being paintable. But do not buy a caulk that is solely silicone-based, because they’re not paintable.
Option B (more expensive) – Urethanized acrylic-latex caulks promise lifetime flexibility, but I personally skipped it and haven’t experienced any problems with option A above
BRANDS SOLD AT ANY BIG-BOX HOME STORES:
– Dap painter’s caulk failed miserably within the first 6 months
– Dap silicone/acrylic-latex blend: Worked good and has held up for 3 years with no problems–but only in places where I filled nail holes. It did not work for filling cracks–for that I recommend a higher-end caulk
– Dap silicone/acrylic-latex blend quick-dry version: Was harder to work with because it kept getting stuck to my fingers, which resulted in a messy appearance. I found it to be useful in a pinch while painting, to fill holes I overlooked and hat I needed to dry asap
John M says
This was really helpful information about how to fill the holes and the steps for filling holes and painting. We have a 1916 “Victorian farmhouse” in southern Wisconsin that was later covered with first asphalt siding, then vinyl. Before pulling the trigger on new siding, we decided to remove a small section of both layers of siding. The clapboard looks to be in good shape; so we have decided to remove all the siding and restore to the clapboard. We have an enclosed porch that shows what the clapboard once looked like. The house will look great when we’re all done.
We too will have thousands nails to remove, so I’m wondering how best to clean the clapboard after removing the nails and before painting. Seems like a spray wash would not be a good idea, given all the nail holes. Any experience with/advice for that?
Ken Roginski says
Sounds great – wood should be sanded clean or use a paint shaver. Paint will fill some nail holes – otherwise use some caulk.
John Mulvihill says
So in removing the vinyl and asphalt siding over clapboard, should nails definitely be pulled and holes filled with caulk; or is driving the nails into the clapboard an alternative?
@Will, I have a very similar house (1950s ranch) and same dilemma. Old wood siding under the vinyl, thousands of nail holes, and some broken boards. What did you end up doing? We’re in Vancouver, Washington starting our DIY job this weekend.
Ann K. says
I bought a single story house made for a vinyl lover. It’s completely covered with faded vinyl siding and even to my amateur eyes, looks poorly done. My goal is to have it completely removed and return back to stucco. Now, where do I find a contractor to take on the job? And does anyone know about how much it will cost? I live in Southern California and its rare to even find homes with vinyl siding as the elements don’t call for such treatment. Any advice is appreciated.
Ken Roginski says
I would find a carpenter that can restore exterior features and repair wood siding. The easy part is removing the vinyl.
Replying late to this fascinating conversation about ugly vinyl siding. We’re halfway through a DIY removal job of dual vinyl & asbestos shingle/tar paper sidings to unveil the very well-preserved 125 year-old clapboard beneath. We’ve patched and painted as we go along, and in answer to Will above, an excellent product for filling nail holes is Crawford’s Painters Putty, a linseed oil based, non-toxic product which I use my fingertips to smooth into the holes. It smells heavenly, if you like the smell of linseed oil and so far has worked great to fill the bazillion nail holes that the inept vinyl siding folks seemed to think necessary!
I have asphalt shingles and an extra layer of vinyl as well (front of house only) covering my 1905 clapboard row house. I pulled some off in the back to see how hard it would be to remove; not hard, but holes from both the tar paper and the shingles left behind. I expect there will be thousands of holes to fill. And many nails to pull.
I’m going to figure out how to test the shingles for asbestos.
Anyway, would love to see pics of your project as it sounds similar to mine. I still have the option of having the Hardie people tear it all off and replace, but hate to trash what might be fine clapboard.
If anyone regrets their decision (either way) I’d like to hear your experience too.
Loved your website as I too am on the edge of removing vinyl siding from my simple 1930’s bungalow just outside of Boston and was afraid the vinyl guys would prevail but I have been determined to see the shingles underneath but worried about the nail holes and whether the previous vinyl siders cut off the edges of my windowsills on the exterior. Well, I have seen solutions others have used to fill nail holes (Crawford’s and a quick dry caulking) on this website and I’ve overcome the nail hole fear, so I am in!! Thanks everyone. I will post photos as I progress. I didn’t intentionally buy and old house with beautiful gumwood on the inside and hardwood floors to continue to live in a house wrapped with vinyl!
Ken Roginski says
Can’t wait to see the pics!
Lisa Slinko says
I’d like to share some photos of the removal of my siding, but I’m not sure how to do that. I also have a really good photo of vinyl windows vs wooden ones as I removed the vinyl ones the former owner had installed. I agree about using Crawfords painting putty for holes, works magic in my mind and I like the smell. Seems a lot of people want to remove their siding but aren’t sure how to go about it. Just do it, you’ll never regret it. If it helps, do a small section to see what’s underneath and get an idea what’s lurking under there. It isn’t an inexpensive project, but you could do a bit at a time.
Ken Roginski says
Hi Lisa – if you have good before and after photos of your siding removal please email them to email@example.com
Really late to the discussion.
I too have been thinking about taking off the horrible spray painted red vinyl siding from our our 1920’s Eaton Catalogue home in rural Alberta Canada. It’s going to be a very long discussion with the husband but I’m stoked for the challenge.
Ken Roginski says
Keep trying. You will never have curb appeal until you do it!
Camille Brown says
I bought a 1930s lake cottage. I want to remove the siding, but I can see that the siding looks like it was cut away near the door openings. I’m afraid to discover what I will find around the windows. I will work on one wall first. Advice? I guess just replace the cut boards? Anyone else have the same experience?
We also have a 1938 lake cottage, with asbestos siding. Did you remove yours yet? I am so scared to touch mine
I have a mid-19th-century house that a previous owner installed vinyl siding on (over the original wood clapboards). There’s a one-room second-floor addition on the back, but it only has a window on one side. We want to have two additional windows, but I’m having trouble planning. We can’t remove the vinyl, yet, but I hope to several years from now–we’re stuck with it for now. I know we can make a casing that looks right with the vinyl siding, but what happens when and if we remove the siding and go back to the original wood? I’m afraid to go to all the trouble of getting this right now, only to end up with a window that protrudes once the vinyl layer is gone. Does that make sense, and do you have any suggestions?
Ken Roginski says
Yea – I see what you mean. Not sure. I would probably wait and do it all at once with the vinyl removed.
Chris M says
I hated the cheap builder grade vinyl siding on my 1940’s cape cod. Started renovating the inside and found a termite damaged wall. When I stripped away the vinyl, I discovered 18″ red cedar shingles (painted over) with hardly any damage. When I checked the price of cedar shingles, I was stunned. Definitely going to sand and keep the them! Now I can replace the doors and windows without having to build out to match the added depth of the vinyl. Thanks for the inspiration.
My 1934 brick home has vinyl siding on the wall and window dormers, soffits, fascia, windows, etc. I’m considering removing vinyl siding, repairing, and painting the wood. What paint would you recommend?
Ken Roginski says
I use Benjamin Moore or Sherwin williams.
Denise Gregg says
My mother and I bought an 1880s home at auction. We are in the process of removing the ugly modern siding and exposing the original clapboard. We are doing the work ourselves so it is a slow process, especially since we have a 2 year old and 3 year old to care for in the process (we are a foster family). I need your opinion on a few things. There is nothing behind the clapboard. We have removed all of the drywall on the inside so we can see the back of the clapboard. What should we do to make the home energy efficient? I am hoping you have a solution that doesn’t involve taking the clapboard off and having to reinstall it.
Ken Roginski says
That’s a tough question. Check out this page. https://www.oldhouseguy.com/insulating-old-homes-toxic/
I read this page with interest. Good work, all of you!
My wife and I bought a 1925 Hulley house in Pittsburgh and I have decided to rip the vinyl off of it. It was installed only 13 years ago but who knows how much rot is underneath it, but rot must be eliminated. Vinyl siding is all about hiding damage and you want to see damage so you can do something about it.
Don’t believe that line about no maintenance. Owning a house is all about maintenance.
I’m getting the bricks cleaned, the siding taken off, and new white cedar siding installed, after having the house wrapped, including with a cedar wrap. I have one picture of the house before the siding was slapped on and it looks like a nightmare, so I think replacing is the right thing to do. Wish me luck!
Ken Roginski says
Your house may have looked like a nightmare with peeling paint but that does not mean it needs to be replaced. 9 out of 10 times the old paint would just need to be sanded off down to bare wood. Why waste money and add good heart-grown wood to the landfill? Today people are very quick to replace if something does not look appealing. This is the purpose of my website if you didn’t get it. Why do people restore something? They don’t do it because something is in good condition.
Wood does not last forever. The man who builds out of wood builds a shack. Sad, but true. I don’t want the awful looking curled and split shingles, because, that’s what happens to shingles, they curl and split. These cedar shingles have lasted almost a hundred years. In that time, other trees have grown to replace them. We deforested this country multiple times. There is nothing magical about rotten old wood.
I see I won’t get any support on here for having having new white cedar shingles put up so the house looks sharp, not ratty, which is how it looks. I have a picture before the vinyl was slapped on and the house looks awful. It has not gotten better on its own. My neighbor’s houses have shingles from the same year, and, generally speaking, they don’t look good.
Paint and exterior wood is not a good combination. Paint always winds up peeling. I’m having stained shingles put up. So, I’ll have to re-stain in 10-15 years, that’s fine. Stain protects better than paint.
I’m also replacing all of the windows with windows from Heirloom Windows out in Indiana. Heirloom uses a double vacuum insulated glass called Spacia that is only 6.4mm thick so that it reads like single pane glass. A company in the UK replaced 120 windows in Winston Churchill’s house with Spacia, and I think the windows look terrific:
I’m also getting beautiful zinc half round gutter put up. I’m doing this even though I will never recoup my investment. But, at least, I will not have to live with awful vinyl siding and I won’t have to freeze to death in the winter.
This is a great discussion I’m returning to now thanks to Mother Nature. Bought a 1926 home in Shaker Heights last spring with aluminum siding. A windstorm this past week tore the top half of the siding off of the driveway side of the house. Revealed underneath is cedar shake that is painted and looks to be in really good shape (even the paint). Dozens of nail holes from the furring strips, which I’ll need to fill, of course, and the trim was hacked off around the windows. Can this process be done in stages? I don’t have the time to devote to filling holes and painting around the entire house this summer (or paying a carpenter to do all of that trim), but could I do one side at a time over the course of the next few years? I really don’t want to cover up the beautiful wood siding with replacement aluminum or go with vinyl.
Ken Roginski says
Wow – that aluminum can be taken to salvage for cash. I wouldn’t worry too much about the nail holes. I would just push in some caulk otherwise the paint will fill them in depending on the size. You can do it in stages. If there is exposed wood – large areas I would first focus on those areas and slap some primer on it. Make sure the wood is sanded to bright wood first. Once that is done you can focus on one area. The biggest job is repairing what was chopped off. It will be great for the neighbors to see your progress and how much better it will look. Good luck to you!
Anoushka Birnie says
Hi, We have nearly completed on a cape cod style house in New Brunswick. We are currently living in England so have only seen pictures. From research and talking to people its mid 1700s to early 1800s. In the pictures I can see that some of the plastic side cladding has broken and underneath is shingles. Whats the best way to do this? My dream is to bring the house back to how it historically was. The house has some major problems, rotting beams and plaster falling off the Lathe are some of the jobs.
Ken Roginski says
Wow – that is very historic. When vinyl is installed most installers will chop off wood features to make it easier and box in the eaves creating Pork Chop eaves. You will need to have a good carpenter handy. Now your house is especially old and anyone hired should really know what they are doing. This is the biggest problem you will have. Just because someone loves old houses doesn’t mean they are qualified and know what to do. I would contact a Heritage Commission or what they have in Canada and ask for referrals of qualified contractors or a qualified Historic Preservation Architect so you can have someone that can guide you to be sure the work is done correctly. Once the siding is removed you should have the old paint removed with a paint shaver. This will bring the wood down to clean wood and when painted it will last a long time. Happy to hear you will be taking good care of your house!
My house was built in 1936 and it has fake wood panels (like for sheds) on the outside. After reading these posts, I am now wondering what is underneath, because those panels were not even invented in the 1930s.
Would it be possible to do this just to the decorative gables with fish scale shingles in a Queen Anne, but leave the vinyl clapboards? I have a 1900 Queen anne with vinyl siding done pretty well in the 90s. They saved many wood details and trim, but the vinyl fish scale shingles look weird. There is a curvature to the gables that the vinyl looks a little clumsy on. Would it look bizarre to take the vinyl off of the gables but leave the vinyl clapboards? The wood trim doesn’t look out of place at all–in fact, I though a decorative piece of trim above a second floor balcony was vinyl until I inspected it up close.
Ken Roginski says
Excellent question. From my point of view the answer is yes. If a homeowner is hesitant in removing their vinyl a first step would be to remove the vinyl siding from inside the porch or just on the front of the house or the gable as you mention. It would be easier to do this in steps I would think. Doing an entire house can be mentally overwhelming and taking baby steps would be less stressful. I hope a reader with some construction knowledge can comment on this question.
Does anyone know what the process is for removing vinyl and replacing it with wood? I am looking to possibly buy a house built in 1979, and I have no idea what is under the vinyl, if anything. If a house is originally built with vinyl what is under it? I keep searching variations of “how to replace vinyl with wood,” but the only results that I can find are for the opposite. It is rather frustrating. Please excuse my ignorance when it comes to house construction. I am a young, first time home buyer. I love the character of old homes, but I value seclusion more, which means that I have been forced into considering more modern homes (although I refuse to buy anything built later than the 1990s). I would like to do what I can to achieve a more classic look if I end up with a vinyl-covered house. The vinyl looks so cheap to me. If only I could find a late 1800s, early 1900s home in the middle of the woods. Sigh.
Ken Roginski says
I know removing it is very easy and you can do it yourself. As for what is underneath if an older house you can bet there is wood but 1980’s or later not sure. You will need to do some selective demolition and see what is beneath.
Debbie Niles says
I am coming in really late to the game! We own a 19 oh one two-story home that has very ugly aluminum siding. We just got an estimate to put new vinyl siding on and it was over $23,000! About 10 years ago we added onto the kitchen and incorporated the back porch into the new kitchen area. Part of the new kitchen is an old wall of old siding that we painted white and it is beautiful! I have been researching restoring the old siding, but everyone thinks I am crazy! My husband is just now getting on board with the idea! We are just so afraid to dig in not knowing what we will find, but I think after reading this article, we are ready to dive in the summer and start pulling off some old aluminum siding and see what we have to work with. This was a wonderful article!
Ken Roginski says
Go for it. The odds are in your favor. Keep us posted!!
I live in Milwaukee and I swear every single house in town, even the ones in the so-called historic districts, is vinyl-covered to the point of looking like a Barbie Dream Home. It may be Barbie’s dream, but it’s not mine. My 1890s house has siding that is old and not in great shape but I do not want it replaced with more siding. I can’t remove it myself (I don’t do ladders — just can’t, it’s a major phobia) but I don’t even know where to try to find someone I can hire to remove it. I tried the local companies that specialize in restoration work, but they do not want to work in my not-so-high-dollar zip code. (It’s a transitional neighborhood since we’re just blocks away from creeping gentrification, but COVID probably delayed the gentrification on this block by a few more years.) I even contacted a stucco contractor since I figured stucco was less gross than vinyl siding and they’d have to be willing to remove the latter before they installed the former. I just want this ugly siding gone, but in the 2+ years since I bought the house, I can’t find anyone willing to help (to be paid to help, of course) with this project and the siding is looking uglier than ever.
Ken Roginski says
I would try just a regular handy-person. Anyone can remove it. You will need someone with skills to do any repairs next.
I live in a 1960 Ranch style brick home, my childhood home, and back about 30 years ago my mom had the original windows replaced and had aluminum siding put on around the windows and around the eve. Well now that it’s my house, I decided to take off that dreadful siding and see what is underneath and to see what kind of damage is lurking. I have started on one window and above it is nice tongue and groove wood, unfortunately they broke and split a couple of the boards while putting that siding on, so those need replaced, I guess they are an odd size I can’t find any boards at any of my local stores, so not sure what to do about that. When they installed the window, they just took out the old window, slapped in the new window and nailed up a couple boards to hold it in then put on the siding. I am no window expert, but I would think they have missed a couple steps installing the window. At least the window frame itself is still in good shape. Looks like it had only been painted once which is crazy. lol While I was taking the siding off the right side of the window, I noticed a huge gap at the top then is gets smaller as it goes down. I looked at my brick wall and IT’S LEANING! Ugh so now I have to figure that out. If anyone has any suggestions on what to do about the window and brick, that would be cool. I am so scared to see what else lurks beneath the rest of this mess. I’m scared of what it’s all going to cost, but on the other hand, I am glad I have decided to do this because who knows what is going on under that aluminum that has just been covered up and never repaired. By the way, I am so glad I found this page and that I am not the only one who absolutely hates that ugly siding, lol.
Ken Roginski says
Happy to see you are unveiling your home. If you need to match wood, you will need to search for a millwork shop. So some searching and you will find someone that can duplicate anything you need. You will find that the cost for one board is not much lower than ordering 10.